Friday, 28 April 2017

Writing Quotations

There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they'll take you. -- Beatrix Potter

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


Last week I posted a column by Richard Lederer in which he wrote about several now outmoded expressions from his (and my) youth. Today's WordWednesday explores "Heavens to Murgatroyd!" because several people (including me) didn't know where it came from. Let me enlighten you.

First I looked in the dozen or so language etymology books on my bookshelf but was disappointed to find I had to resort to consulting The Oracle (aka the internet). Turns out that the expression was coined by Snagglepuss, the pink mountain lion from The Yogi Bear Show. For those of you who are too young to know, Heavens to Murgatroyd! means the same as "Heavens to Betsy!" or "Oh, my gosh!" It seems to have been coined by the show's (clearly clever) writers.

It also turns out that in England, Murgatroyd is a surname that might mean either Johanus of Moor Gate Royde or Margaret's Road. There's more to the name, of course, but you get the idea. Maybe one of the Yogi Bear writers had ancestors in England.

So, when you exclaim "Heavens to Murgatroyd!" know that you are continuing a fine tradition of...well, humour and history. Holy History, Batman!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Lost Words from our Childhood

This article sent to me by my brother, was written by Richard Lederer, an author, speaker and teacher who has written extensively about words, origins, puns, and so on. Being of about the same generation as Mr. Lederer, I include it here because it includes a number of phrases that are familiar to me but have gone out of style.

 About a month ago, I illuminated some old expressions that have become obsolete because of the inexorable march of technology. These phrases included, "Don't touch that dial," "Carbon copy," "You sound like a broken record" and "Hung out to dry."

Back in the old days we had a lot of moxie. We'd put on our best bib and tucker to straighten up and fly right - Heavens to Betsy!

Gee whillikers! Jumping Jehoshaphat! Holy moley! We were in like Flynn and living the life of Riley and even a regular guy couldn't accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China

Back in the old days, life used to be swell, but when's the last time anything was swell? Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the day of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers. Oh, my aching back. Kilroy was here, but he isn't anymore.

We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap and before we can say, "Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle! This is a fine kettle of fish!" - we discover that the words we grew up with, the words that seemed as omnipresent as oxygen have vanished with scarcely a notice from our tongues and our pens and our keyboards.

Poof, go the words of our youth, the words we've left behind. We blink, and they're gone. Where have all those phrases gone?

Long gone: Pshaw! The milkman did it. Hey, it's your nickel. Don't forget to pull the chain. Knee high to a grasshopper. Well, fiddlesticks! Going like sixty. I'll see you in the funny papers. Don't take any wooden nickels. Heavens to Murgatroyd!

It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter has liver pills. This can be disturbing stuff! We of a certain age have been blessed to live in changing times.

For a child, each new word is like a shiny toy, a toy that has no age. We at the other end of the chronological arc have the advantage of remembering there are words that once did not exist and there were words that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage. Now they are heard no more, except in our collective memory. It's one of the greatest advantages of aging.

See ya later, alligator.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Writing Quotations

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.
-- J. D. Salinger

(I have to add that I sometimes wish I'd written a book, or even a line, that knocks me out!
-- K.J.T.)